AI puts customers at the centre of business
How can Marketers put customers at the centre of a beating AI heart?
A lot of progress has been made in artificial intelligence (AI), yet the technology remains a digital frontier. AI is no longer a fad, but in terms of impacting the bottom line, AI investments need to be fine-tuned. Businesses should be mindful that the ultimate goal is to serve their customers and utilise the technology accordingly.
AI can be a valuable tool for Marketers who want to reach customers in the most impactful way. During the pandemic, more than one in three businesses admitted in a 2020 study that communications failures had damaged customer trust and negatively impacted their own brand, so messaging should be more considered than ever before. As businesses scale and expand to more digital channels, tracking customer needs and preferences becomes an ever more challenging task. With AI, marketers can build for change and ensure that the messages they use are always tailored, relevant and impactful.
Stay on, stay connected
Understanding customer needs is more complicated than it was perhaps five years ago. With customer data spread across online and offline channels, marketers need tools to help them develop a 360-view of a customer’s context so that they can really understand what they need and how best to approach them. Without this vital step, Marketers risk mis-selling products which can have a negative impact on the customer relationship and affect future sales as well.
To have the most impact when communicating with their customers, Marketers should make use of a central always-on ‘AI brain’ that sits as a layer beneath all customer interactions - whether they took place in-app, over the phone or on a wearable IoT device. This AI brain analyses interactions that have taken place and connects siloed information from different channels and internal systems to form one source of the truth for each customer. With a full view of customer history, behaviour patterns, preferences, and even personal details such as the name of a customer’s pet, Marketers can ensure that their messages are personalised to make the most impact for the individual.
Applied across the whole organisation, AI and robotic process automation (RPA), can enable this unified view across departments so that marketing messages can be used to inform sales and customer service teams too. With a central AI that keeps customer data flowing through the organisation, valuable insights will not get missed and Marketers can stay focussed on each individual customer’s immediate needs.
Proactivity is key
Having access to information is one thing, using it correctly is another. Marketers are often juggling a wide variety of products and many customer demographics, which often overlap over multiple lines of business. This complexity can mean that opportunities to offer a product or service that a customer needs are missed. Luckily, AI can take on this task as well.
AI analyses all of the available data and calculates the next-best-action for the individual customer in real-time. With a central AI tool, marketers can even predict what the customer is likely to ask for next before they make a request. Whether the customer has recently returned an item and needs an alternative that fits their requirements, or whether they have just started searching for a house and may be interested in a mortgage, Marketers can incorporate these needs into their marketing plans.
Inversely, a proactive approach can help to avoid aggravating customers by offering inappropriate products and services like a repeat order of a one-time-buy item or a better deal on a previous purchase. As such, an always-connected AI never misses an opportunity to help a customer find what they need, and not what they don’t.
By putting the customer first in a proactive marketing approach, AI also decides the most appropriate way of contacting a customer. Paired with automated bots, AI messages can be appropriately tailored to each customer’s preferences according to their most-used channel, the most convenient time to contact them and using language that suits the urgency of the situation – all sent without any human intervention, so no time is wasted.
Decisions need to be transparent and ethical
Understanding what is possible in marketing with AI is just the start of the journey. Businesses which are really serious about moving to an AI model for customer-centric customer engagements will need to make sure that the AI they use is fully transparent to guarantee ethical decisions are made. Otherwise, the benefits of automated next-best-action technology will not serve the customer or help the business prosper.
The data that feeds AI is a vital part of ensuring ethical decisions. First, businesses need GDPR compliant, representative data from consenting customers to accurately train AI models. It is possible to “clean” AI with digital tools which are emerging in the market for the first time, but there are other ways of data screening to remove inconsistencies that may result in unethical decisions.
Working AI models will need to be fully transparent at all times and must offer an end-to-end view of how it reached its decisions. A “black box” AI model which cannot disclose the decisioning process can be problematic if a customer feels they have been treated poorly. To build trust among customers, businesses which choose to use AI need to be fully accountable for any disputed decision. The ability to demonstrate transparency in the whole AI “thought-process” and explain how it arrived at its decision will help to forge lasting, trustworthy relationships.
So, simply implementing the latest technology to placate the technology status quo is not the way to truly innovate. Innovations need to address a specific goal and be continuously monitored to make sure that they are achieving what they set out to do. As society emerges from COVID-19, it will be of great importance to support customers through the transitory period, wherein many customers will have to recalibrate how they source and purchase the things that they need.
To support them, AI has the potential to be a failsafe way to initiate accurate and valuable customer interactions, but for Marketers to reap the benefits it must be deployed at the heart of the business. Those who claim to always keep the customer at the front-of-mind must demonstrate their commitment by taking the same approach to implementing an always-on, everywhere connected AI that champions the customer at all times.